Micah 6:8

‘He has shown you, O man, what is good. What does Yahweh require of you,
but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?’
(Micah 6:8)

God isn’t interested in unrepentant so called ‘faith’ – He wasn’t in Micah’s day and it won’t do for us either. In fact it’s the very definition of empty, ‘dead’(James 2:26) religion.

The question posed in this passage is ‘How shall I come before… God?’(Micah 6:6), with what would He be ‘pleased’(Micah 6:7). It seems the idea had arisen that perhaps ‘thousands’(Micah 6:7) of Old Testament sacrifices might be the answer – then otherwise ignoring God’s ways. But no. Of course God had prescribed the sacrifices, partly as an ‘“‘atonement’”’(Leviticus 4:20ff., 5:6ff., etc.) for sin, but also as a sign of dedication and devotion to Him, and He’s not paying attention unless that’s real! As Micah’s contemporary Isaiah prophesied: ‘“What are the multitude of your sacrifices to me?”, says Yahweh… “… Bring no more vain offerings… I will hide my eyes… Cease to do evil. Learn to do well. Seek justice. Relieve the oppressed…”’(Isaiah 1:11-17) etc., and Amos had prophesied something similar: ‘“I can’t stand your solemn assemblies… though you offer me… burnt offerings… I will not accept them… let justice roll on like rivers, and righteousness like a mighty stream”’(Amos 5:21-24).

So in Old Testament times changed behaviour was expected, a ‘contrite heart’(Psalm 51:17), which implies at least a desire to ‘walk in all His ways, to love Him, and to serve… with… heart and… soul’(Deuteronomy 10:12). God’s true people will love Him and His ways, want to walk with Him, and attempt to act accordingly, i.e. ‘act justly… love mercy, and… walk humbly’ with Him. It was essential to at least show ‘“willing”’(Isaiah 1:19) for God to say ‘“Come now… let’s reason together… Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow”(Isaiah 1:18), through the atoning sacrifices, which obviously all point towards and find their fulfilment in the ‘atoning sacrifice’(Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2ff.) of ‘Christ’(1 Corinthians 15:3).

This should even more be the case for New Testament believers, made ‘alive’(Ephesians 2:5) by the Holy ‘“Spirit”’(John 3:6), with God’s ‘law’(Romans 8:2) ‘“put”’(Jeremiah 31:33) in our hearts, and so enabled to ‘walk’(Galatians 5:25) in the ‘perfect law of freedom’(James 1:25) ‘in Christ’(Romans 8:2). The idea that we could rest complacent in sin whilst relying on the atoning sacrifice of Jesus is preposterous: ‘May it never be!’(Romans 6:2ff.) – it’s even more inappropriate than these similar ideas in Micah’s day.

So it’s helpful to examine our ‘faith’(2 Corinthians 13:5) in the light of the markers mentioned by Micah here, things that God has ‘shown’ us are ‘good’, and which He expects to see as ‘“fruit”’(Matthew 3:8) in keeping with ‘repentance’(Acts 26:20).

First comes justice, which is perhaps most easily understood by considering what it’s not, i.e., ‘those who devise iniquity’(Micah 2:1ff.), are ‘“dishonest… deceitful”’(Micah 6:11ff.) etc., ‘and pervert… equity’(Micah 3:9ff.) – everything unjust. In contrast, God’s ways are ‘perfect, for all His ways are just. A God of faithfulness who does no wrong, just and right is He’(Deuteronomy 32:4). His true people will want to follow suit, including, as Micah prophesied, the worldwide Christian community that was to arise: ‘Many nations… “… He will teach… of His ways, and… will walk in His paths”’(Micah 4:2ff.), even unto eternity.

However, as we set out on that journey, studying to follow God’s just and perfect ways, we’ll quickly become aware of our need for mercy. Thankfully, alongside justice God displays perfect mercy too, through Christ. He’s a God who ‘pardons iniquity, and… delights in loving kindness. He will… have compassion on us’(Micah 7:18-19), because ‘the Lord is full of compassion and mercy’(James 5:11). Tasting the sweetness of such much needed mercy should give us an appetite for expressing the same, to ‘love mercy’ in that sense too – the meaning here. So we’re to be ‘kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving… just as God… in Christ forgave’(Ephesians 4:32) us, not like the unmerciful ‘“servant”’(Matthew 18:26ff.).

And so to the walking humbly with God – not only humility towards ‘God’(1 Peter 5:6) but with and like Him. In Christ we’re to ‘walk’(Ephesians 4:1) with ‘all lowliness and humility’(Ephesians 4:2), walking ‘just like He walked’(1 John 2:6). Jesus is the perfect example of how to be ‘“gentle and humble in heart”’(Matthew 11:29), and we’re to follow His lead, walking in ‘the humility and gentleness of Christ’(2 Corinthians 10:1).

So, in ‘humility’(1 Peter 3:15), let’s not simply proclaim but show to others the mercy we’ve received from God, always promoting and demonstrating His justness too, rather than resting complacent in the opposite.

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